OTTAWA – Amid cabinet shuffle speculation, the federal government has set the table for the potential addition of new ministerial positions with a piece of legislation passed quietly last month.

At the end of the parliamentary session, Bill C-24 received Royal Assent. The bill amends the Salaries Act and the Financial Administration Act to create the space for eight ministerial positions, with full minister salaries and departmental support. It also moved the six regional development agencies under the responsibility of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, the cabinet position currently held by Navdeep Bains.

Five of these new spots have already been filled, when Trudeau appointed his first cabinet and transferred five portfolios that used to be minister of state roles to full ministers:

  • the Minister of La Francophonie, currently held by Marie-Claude Bibeau;
  • the Minister of Science, currently held by Kirsty Duncan;
  • the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, also held by Kirsty Duncan;
  • the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, currently held by Bardish Chagger;
  • and the Minister of Status of Women, currently held by Maryam Monsef.

This leaves three new ministerial positions that are not spoken for within the legislation, and increases the overall cap on the total number of potential ministers to 37. The current cabinet includes 30 individuals, with a few people doing double-duty.

As of April 1, 2018, cabinet ministers receive a $84,000 salary increase to their $175,600 MP salary.

Sources have told The Canadian Press that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will shuffle his cabinet "sometime in the next week." The prospect of a shuffle has not been independently verified by CTV News.

Bill C-24 was first introduced in 2016 and took a slow journey through the House and Senate, though not supported by the opposition parties, the legislation passed without amendment.

"The other three positions would be untitled and are not filled in the current ministry. These flexible positions could be used and titled by a prime minister at his or her discretion, in response to future priorities and emerging challenges and opportunities," said Kevin Lamoureux, parliamentary secretary to the Government House Leader, speaking to the bill in the House of Commons when it was first introduced. In his speech he highlighted that amendments to the act have been made several times in governments past, "as to reflect the reality of ministries at those times."

It remains unclear how, or if there are plans to fill these additional spots in the near future. There is no requirement to do so, but it leaves the door open to the option if Trudeau so desired.

"As time goes by, realities change and new priorities emerge, and the government has the responsibility to ensure it has the ability to respond adequately," Lamoureux said.